The Oldest Orchestra in Indianapolis: Athenaeum Pops Orchestra

The Athenaeum Pops Orchestra, an Indianapolis music organization, grew out of a zither ensemble during the 1870’s. The German concert zither is a flat stringed instrument with a fretted fingerboard and 32 to 42 strings. It is popular in several European countries, most notably Germany and Hungary.

It’s only natural that the ensemble at the Athenaeum began to attract the best German musicians in Indianapolis. Eventually these musicians formed an orchestra known as “The Musicverein” (The Music Club).  In the years between 1918 and 1930, sentiment toward Germans became markedly negative due to the influence of World War I, and the Musicverein ceased to exist temporarily. In 1930, however, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra was created, and some of those musicians later went on to organize a pops group, then dubbed “The Athenaeum Turners Orchestra,” in 1940.

The Musicverein became the modern-day Athenaeum Pops Orchestra in 1995, and it is currently led by Dr. Lee H. Jones. The original Musicverein stuck to the classics and the occasional opera piece, but the Athenaeum Pops Orchestra performs a lot of lighter pops fare in addition to traditional pieces.

The orchestra’s mission statement is “To provide the music that everyone loves to hear,” and the group has remained true to that goal over the years. Some of the finest musicians in Indy and beyond represent the Athenaeum Pops Orchestra. At the same time, it is an all-volunteer organization that meets for rehearsals in the Athenaeum Building’s YMCA Aerobics Room once a week.

This Indianapolis orchestra constitutes an important member of the Indianapolis music community. It welcomes any and all good musicians to audition with its music director, Jose Valencia. They perform some 15 concerts per year at various venues around Indianapolis, including the Artsgarden, The Forum, and Garfield Park. At the climax of every Athenaeum Pops Orchestra concert, the players burst into a rousing rendition of the “Beer Barrel Polka.”

For local music lovers and those visiting Indianapolis, catching an Athenaeum Pops Orchestra performance is just one of many great things to do in Indianapolis.

For more information on the Athenaeum Pops Orchestra, please visit the organization’s homepage.

Athenaeum Pops Orchestra
401 E Michigan St
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 317.787.3782
Fax: 317.630.0035